Common Name: North American River Otter
Latin Name: Lontra canadensis
Location: waterways and coasts in North America
Conservation Status: Least Concern
River otters can remain underwater for as long as 8 minutes and dive to depths greater than 60 feet! They swim an average of 6 mph, and can swim even faster for short distances by vertically flexing their bodies and tails back and forth along the surface of the water. On land they can run up to 15 mph, and slide even faster.
Otters primarily hunt at night and feed on whatever might be available. They have a very high metabolism so they eat frequently. Fish are a favorite, but they also eat amphibians, turtles, and crayfish. On land they can catch chipmunks, mice, and other small mammals. Because otters are so good at getting food they have plenty of time to play, often wrestling or spending hours sliding down mud, snow, or ice covered hills.
River otters are a species managed under the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Otter Species Survival Plan. Because river otters are sensitive to habitat destruction and water pollution, they have been virtually eliminated throughout many parts of their original range. With recent wetland restoration they have been successfully reintroduced to many of these areas, and improvements in water quality and trapping management has helped this species recover from the low numbers of the early 19th century.
⦁ Otters are members of the weasel family, also known as mustelids.
⦁ With eyes specially adapted for underwater vision, river otters are nearsighted above water.
⦁ Air bubbles trapped between layers of fur helps otters stay warm in cold weather and cold water.
⦁ Otters have water repellent fur, and nostrils and ears that close in the water.